2020 ends, 2021 begins—coronavirus pandemic, political upheaval, earthquakes.  On December 31, 2020 TimeOut Croatia’s Lara Rasin covered earthquakes in Zagreb and Petrinja. She wrote There’s a saying in Croatia, ‘U muci se poznaju junaci’ or ‘Hard times reveal heroes.‘ As powerful forces leave their marks threatening homes and lives—how will we care for each other and our earth?

Writer and anthropologist Andrea Pisac  contextualized recent earthquakes in a recent FB vlog as she and her husband Nik delivered food to earthquake victims in small towns around Petrinja—also the site of devastation in the 1990s war.  She talked about traditional Croatian wooden architecture built from conifer & deciduous forests which still cover about a third of Croatia today.

Traditional wooden Croatian home https://oldcroatia.tumblr.com

Do trees register seismic activity before earthquakes occur? Can trees mitigate an earthquake’s impact on buildings? A January 2018 EarthScience research update in PhysicsWorld discussed how forests might limit devastation. What might forest management strategies contribute to sustainable city architecture and infrastructure?

Species don’t know borders is a EUFORGEN (European Forest Genetic Resources Programme) tagline For over 20 years this collaborative international project is dedicated to the study of trees and forests.  EUFORGEN defines tree characteristics for forest management. It describes the European nettle tree as pollution tolerant and water-resistant but also makes the claim that in spite of their research, trees hold ‘mysteries and secrets’ and we ‘don’t know how adaptable trees really are.’ 

Celtis australis/European Nettle, Celtis occidentalis/American Nettle

European nettle trees and their American cousins share similar characteristics. Both grow rapidly, tolerate harsh urban conditions, and are planted as a street tree and in city parks.

Nastarija Medulinka © Sonja Barbara Bader for Total Croatia News
October 2020

Croatia’s entry for the 2021 European Tree of the Year contest is a 115 year old street tree. This European nettle tree is called by many names— Celtis australis, Mediterranean hackberry, lote tree, honeyberry and Najstarija Medulinka (the oldest lady in Medulin)  She  lives in a public square in the village of Medulin, Istria, has smooth grey bark, gray-green leaves leaves and small, dark purple berry-like fruit that birds and other wildlife love. She is drought resistant and loves sun—ideally suited to the Mediterranean basin climate. 

Pines on Kvarner coast

Bor is Croatian for pine tree. Pines once blanketed Croatia, including the now largely deforested Istria, islands and coastal areas. A 2007 heat wave sparked wildfires that destroyed Dalmatian forested areas. During the summer of 2017 a state of emergency was declared in Split and along the coast where wildfires burned 4500 hectacres/11,100 acres of pine forests, olive groves and underbrush.  The cause was not clear but changing wind patterns were suspected. Climate Change Post indicators of future fires provides insights about causes and solutions.

Is there a link between deforestation and zoonotic diseases such as to COVID-19?  How might forest management and climate change activists collaborate to renew resources and maybe even reset our ecosystems?


The Boranka (Paint it back) Project is an attempt to re-green Dalmatia after devastating wildfires. This tree planting project started in 2018. Initiated by the Scouts, it is the largest Croatian volunteer wildfire site reforestation project with over 10,000 volunteers to date. The Boranka Project has attracted a lot of supporters. A promotional video narrated by the Canadian Ambassador to Croatia describes the project’s global implications. And proceeds from Andrea Pisac’s cookbook Croatian Desserts, 50 Authentic Recipes to Make at Home are helping to fund The Boranka Project.

Published by marielscatena

Curious about the ways place shapes experience. Grateful for people who share their time, hopes and dreams with me. Inspired by stories that bring light and love into the world.

One thought on “Unwavering

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